No one handles the big boys quite like Claudio's "King of Cheese," the Ninth Street stalwart where the provolones are bigger than some of the customers. It's the pure mass of those 120-pounders, though, which hang sentry in waxy ivory rows of giant "salami" near the front door, that gives this cheese its luster.

After a year of dangle time, these gargantuas made in Cremona from rich winter milk take on a luminous tang and trademark texture, with fissures that break into age rings. All the easier to chunk for the extra-sharp holiday platter.

Aged provolone costs $9.99 a pound at Claudio's King of Cheese, 926 S. 9th St., 215-627-1873.

- Craig LaBan